President George Weah’s State of the Nation Address last Monday calling for citizenship and land rights to be granted people of non-Negro descent has sparked dissenting views from many quarters, even among those who are so loyal to him.
A lot of social media comments and those published in newspapers, including the Daily Observer, take serious exception to the President’s advocacy to grant citizenship and the sale of land to people of non-Negro descent.
As reported by our Editor, Omari Jackson, in our Wednesday edition, Jacob Y. Willie said, “I don’t agree with President Weah on that one and my reason is that because people of non-Negro descent traditionally have money, there will be too much disadvantage over Liberians.”
Like Willie, many other views suggest that granting citizenship to non-Negroes will be too much of a disadvantage to the poverty-stricken Liberians because those of non-Negro descent in Liberia already have complete control over the Liberian economy and have the potential to purchase as much land as possible, meaning the whole country.
This, according to the comments, has the propensity to deny the ordinary poor Liberians of farmland, thus leading them to deeper poverty and depression.
There are instances to back the comments about granting citizenship and land rights to people of non-Negro descent.
In Zimbabwe, the land crisis between Zimbabweans and the white people has been a serious problem in that southern African country. This land conflict led to the abrupt confiscation of white-owned land and the adoption of a new law to lease land to the whites, rather than allow them to own it. The white people of Zimbabwe expropriated huge portions of the choicest farmland and occupied it, to the disadvantage of the poor Zimbabweans.
We also read that under colonialism and apartheid in South Africa, the white minority claimed the largest share of land, absolutely depriving the black African majority of any good land, thereby setting the revolutionary agenda for reclamation.
Liberia does not have a history of colonial conquest of land, except that both the British and French imperialists seized huge tracts of Liberian territory on the east, north, west, and southwest parts of the country.
However, the evidence exists that land crisis among Liberians remains a very critical threat to reconciliation and unity after the civil crisis. We recall the many land conflicts that sprang up in 2011, precipitating violent clashes in many parts of the country.
We also recall how people of Grand Kru and Sinoe counties went on the rampage against Golden Veroleum (GV) for occupying huge tracts of their land for GV’s oil palm plantation.
What do you think would happen, Mr. President, when the financially potent non-Negros are given citizenship and right to land ownership and they purchase most of the land across the country, including all the beaches?
There had been some past instances of infringement on the right of Liberians by some people of the very non-Negro descent under discussion.
We remember the Mamba Point Hotel incident, where a Liberian’s tooth was broken by a Lebanese and the perpetrator was quickly sent back to Lebanon to prevent him from bearing the penalty of his action. We also remember how Liberian girls were transported to Lebanon under the pretext of lucrative jobs to improve their lives, but in the end those girls were turned into sex slaves!
Let us also recall the plight of our black African brothers in North Africa, particularly in Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. Those are people who, because of their lighter color, disdainfully despise black Africans from the sub-Saharan belt.
In recent days there have emerged reports about inhumane treatment perpetrated by Libyans and Algerians against black Africans that ended up in those countries in a hapless bid to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe seeking greener pastures. Does this most brutal and inhumane treatment of our brothers and sisters from sub Sahara Africa by Africans of a lighter color warrant the granting of citizenship and land rights to such people?
But here is the case. In one of your pillars outlined during your State of the Nation Address, you spoke of giving power to the people. Power as we understand it in this context means decision of the people to control their economy and drive their development agenda. It means giving the younger generation the requisite education so that they will make better decisions about their wellbeing and their future and the future of their country, Liberia.
Power to the people would also mean making the justice system effective so that the rule of law will be the hallmark to guide the rights of the citizens.
As public sentiments can show, a lot of the young people and older folks love and admire you so much, Mr. President. We know your speech was accompanied by deafening applauses, giving the impression that they were in agreement.
But comments emerging now about your willingness, “your most urgent priority,” as you said, to grant citizenship and land rights to people of non-Negro descent clearly signals a disconnect between you and your tens of thousands of supporters. At this infant stage of your administration, we submit that you cannot afford that.
There are far more urgent and serious matters afflicting the Liberian masses, which not only require, but DEMAND your immediate and urgent attention, especially as you come into office succeeding a previous administration that neglected so many of these urgent and serious matters.
We beg you to deal with these first, President Weah. Liberians have been suffering long enough.